Wandlebury is designated as a County Wildlife Site and is important for its chalk meadows and mature woodland. The Park also has a traditional orchard, ponds and hedgerows which all add to the biodiversity of the site, as do some of the historic buildings and structures, which are home to several species of bat.

In the woods

A pair of Tawny Owls raise their young in the park each year. They are nocturnal and so difficult to see, but you can often hear their "twit-twoo" calls at dusk, when you might also encounter bats feeding on flying insects. In spring and summer look-out for butterflies such as Speckled Wood, White-letter Hairstreak and Green-veined Whites and listen for the "mewing" call of Buzzards soaring above the trees.

The park has one of the most diverse range of tree species in the area, each supporting a wealth of insects and fungi, including many quite rare and vulnerable species. Many of the large trees were planted in the late 1700s when Wandlebury was a private estate.

In the winter we "coppice" some of the trees. This involves cutting them (without killing) so that they grow back multiple stems. This initially creates open glades and then a thicker under-storey. This increases the diversity of the woods, supporting more species.

Whenever we can, we leave dead trees and branches as they provide important habitats for lots of woodland species (this is why we ask people to only make dens in the den building area - sticks on the woodland floor are home to wildlife). 

At the ponds

In spring, Common Frog, Common Toad and Smooth Newt all migrate to the ponds to spawn. They provide a tasty meal for Grass Snakes which lay in wait (Grass Snakes are harmless to humans). Bogbean (white flowers), Yellow Iris (yellow flowers) and Marsh Marigold (yellow flowers) are some of the plants in the ponds. In late summer dragonflies and damselflies hawk over the water and lay their eggs. Wandlebury is on top of a chalk hill, so water is always in short supply - if you approach the ponds carefully you might see birds coming to drink or bathe.

Every autumn we cut back the pond vegetation to ensure that there is sufficient open water.

In the meadows

Our chalk meadows are the most important habitat at Wandlebury. From Easter to July you can see a wide range of flowering plants and grasses including Cowslip, Perennial Flax, Majoram, Oxeye Daisy, Meadow Saxifrage, Rock Rose and Bee Orchids. These attract butterflies such as Marbled White, Essex Skipper, Common Blue, Brimstone and Small Copper.

We manage the chalk meadows in a variety of ways, including grazing with cattle and sheep, through cutting and removing hay in the summer and by leaving some areas uncut each year. 

From the wildlife viewing hide

Our Banyard Wildlife viewing hide is a great place to sit and watch for wildlife, especially from October-March when we put food out. Keep your eyes peeled for Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Long-tailed Tits, Chaffinches and sometimes a Brambling. Muntjac Deer drink from the small ponds and see if you can spot Bank Voles under the feeders.

In the orchard

In early spring look out for colourful Bullfinches feeding on new buds of the fruit trees. Bullfinches are considered as pests of commercial orchards and in the past were shot, but we are happy to give them a home. In late autumn, flocks of Fieldfare and Redwing arrive from Scandinavia and feed on our fallen fruit.

In late summer we cut some of the grass in the orchard so that wild flowers can flourish the following spring. In winter we prune the fruit trees to keep them healthy and encourage a good crop next year.

You can follow nature at our sites and through the seasons via our WandleburyWarden instagram